Last August I reviewed the Lumix DMC-FZ28, Panasonic's entry in the competitive super-zoom bridge camera market. As its many satisfied buyers will attest, the FZ28 is a superb camera, earning our highest accolade the Editor's Choice award. For the past year it has become the yardstick against which all other super-zooms have been measured, and it remains the best in its class. No other super-zoom camera has been able to match its combination of handling, performance and image quality, until now.
Or rather until September, because that's when the FZ28's replacement, the unsurprisingly-named Lumix DMC-FZ38, goes on sale. Although it was only officially announced today, I've had a full production sample of the new FZ38 for the past week, and I've had a chance to put it through its paces. I'm happy to report that it's every bit as good as its illustrious predecessor, and offers quite a few significant improvements, which it's going to need if it is to maintain its lead over some very competent rivals, such as the Nikon P90, Canon SX1 and Casio EX-FH20.
UPDATE 03/08: The FZ38 is now available for pre-order from a number of online retailers, and is being priced at around £300, which is unsurprisingly about the same as the launch price of the FZ28.
At first glance it doesn't look like much has been changed apart from the rather obvious addition of a pair of stereo microphones mounted on top of the flash housing. The body is identical to the FZ28, a design that has remained unchanged since the 2007 FZ18. It's a nice compact body, and the build quality is as good as ever. It is light but strong, with a decent-sized rubber handgrip and a textured thumb rest, and the numerous buttons and controls are clearly labelled and sensibly positioned. It handles well and looks suitably businesslike, but I can't help thinking that the overall design is starting to look a little dated. I'm not looking for chrome fins and flashing lights, but a little remodelling wouldn't have hurt, if only to integrate the microphones into the design. As it is they look like what they are; an afterthought retrofitted on to an existing design.